Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published (2006) in Poker Player newspaper.
One of the most mysterious categories of hands for hold ’em players is called “suited connectors.” As you’ll soon hear repeated, the name means you begin with two cards of the same suit, usually adjacent in rank and not particularly high or low in value.
Examples of suited connectors would be 10-9 of diamonds and 8-7 of clubs. These hands can be profitable in many situations. But you need to know that you won’t improve them nearly as often as most players might expect. Suited connectors are often overvalued and played incorrectly.
To help you out, I’m about to replay a lecture I gave long ago about suited connectors. I went like this…
The truth about suited connectors
I’m about to tell you the truth about suited connectors in hold ’em, but you might not like what you hear. Before you hear the truth, you need to know what suited connectors are. Actually, I don’t much like the term, but most professionals have pretty much settled on it and know what it means, so let’s use it.
Suited connectors are simply two cards of adjacent ranks of the same suits. Usually, the term is reserved for middle ranks that would not be high enough to be profitable, except that the extra chance of making a flush – the suited part – or making a straight – the connector part – is enough to turn the semi-weak ranks into winning combinations.
There are many things I could tell you about how to play suited connectors, but I want to share just a few very important things today.
Suited connectors are usually not profitable if you face a field of aggressive opponents. The type of opponents you want to play suited connectors against are those who call with weak hands and who don’t raise liberally enough. I call these players loose and timid. Loose and timid opponents are the easiest to beat, because they come into pots with the worst of it, keep calling when they should surrender, and fail to get good value even when they hold strong hands. They’re too timid to bet or raise for maximum value – except with very large hands.
If you could always play against loose and timid opponents, you could make a fortune in a short time. But, sadly, you’re not going to be playing against only this type of opponent. Some days opponents will be selective and aggressive. That’s the very worst kind of opponents to face, because not only do they mostly play profitable hands, they get the most value out of them by being aggressive.
One thing about suited connectors is that you’d either like to take the pot without much of a fight, by raising the blinds out of the action from late position, or by raising from late position and ending up against just one opponent that you might draw out on, or you’d like to call a lot of players and see the flop cheaply before deciding what to do.
If everyone folds and I’m in late position, either the dealer position or the seat just before it, I’ll usually raise with 10-9 suited, 9-8 suited, or even 8-7 suited. Suited connector hands lower than 8-7 suited, I’ll usually fold with, because the ranks aren’t high enough to win consistently, even if I’m lucky enough to pair. You see, the added advantage of raising in late position when everyone else has folded is that you might end up one-on-one and pair big enough to beat an unknown hand in the blinds. For instance, the big blind might call with queen-six and later pair sixes. If you’re playing five-four suited and your opponent pairs sixes, you’re going to need to make more than a pair to win. While this may seem obvious and insignificant, it turns out to be very significant when random trials are actually run on computer. The smaller suited connectors don’t earn value raising the blinds from late position, simply because they don’t often offer the additional opportunity of pairing and beating a smaller pair.
So, mid-range suited connectors are OK to raise with in late position, when you’re first in the pot. Smaller suited connectors usually aren’t. Sometimes you might just call with these small, adjacent, suited ranks, but often that’s bad, too, so you should fold.
But, here’s the big tip. Even medium suited connectors are almost always unprofitable in pots against aggressive, winning opponents. And I’m talking about limit games mostly. In no-limit games, it can be even worse to play suited connectors, because sophisticated opponents often won’t let you get good pot odds if you play these hands routinely. They’ll often make it too expensive to call before the flop, and – even if you see the flop — if you don’t completely connect right then, they’ll often make it unprofitable to continue. The way to play suited connectors against that type of no-limit foe is selectively. Sometimes play them, but not too often, otherwise you’ll motivate alert opponents to attack and get maximum advantage.
And finally, it’s more profitable to come in with suited connectors after two or more players have already called than to barge in with them, not knowing if anyone else will call or raise. Suited connectors are significantly more profitable when played from late positions.
So, repeating, when you have suited connectors in late position and no one else has entered the pot, it’s OK to raise. Calling is sometimes OK, too, but doesn’t give you the opportunity to steal the blinds. If you’re going to raise the blinds with suited connectors, make sure your ranks are high enough to beat a small pair if you make a pair. Remember that, in general, you don’t want to play suited connectors against selective and aggressive opponents. And finally, remember that suited connectors will usually be more profitable if you call a long line of players than if you barge in from an early position, so often, if you’re in early position, you should just fold.
This is “The Mad Genius of Poker” Mike Caro and that’s my secret today.